Radio interview with Secretary Rumsfeld on the Mike Gallagher Show
GALLAGHER: It's not an easy task coming into the studio every day and trying to get to the truth about things like this war on terror. I really fear that the mainstream media has such an agenda that most Americans just don't get a true picture of the success that we've had, particularly in Iraq. I don't suppose anybody could give us a better picture than the 21st Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld. It is a real honor to welcome the Defense Secretary to the Mike Gallagher Show.
Secretary Rumsfeld, how are you sir?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you very much, I'm delighted to be with you and I'm in good shape. I came in yesterday from Iraq and had an opportunity to meet with all the new Iraqi leadership and note the historic nature of this political milestone that's been achieved in that country.
GALLAGHER: There have been a number of milestones. I've seen you express this frustration, Mr. Secretary, that these achievements -- we hear them from soldiers. I hear them from service men and women who come back. I get e-mails from service men over in the battlefield who say Mike, the American people just don't get the picture of all the good that's being done over there. It's got to be frustrating. I've seen you express that frustration. But talk a little bit about how hard it is to get this message out to the American people.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well it is. If you think of what just happened, the terrorists tried to stop the election and they failed, they tried to stop the drafting of an Iraqi constitution and they failed, and they've tried to prevent the new government from being formed and they failed, and the progress there is notable. Eleven million people, Iraqis, went out and voted and they have a new constitution and a new government.
I spent a good deal of time with the new government leaders. They are purposeful, they're determined, they clearly recognize the importance of representing all elements of the diverse religions groups that live in that country and they're off to a very solid start. I came away very encouraged by it.
And that story just doesn't get out in the U.S. press. I mean it hasn't. I noticed it was on page four or five of some of the supposedly leading newspapers in our country.
GALLAGHER: It's buried. The spread of democracy to this troubled part of the world is such a watershed moment in our nation's history and indeed on the planet, and yet it just seems to be put on a back burner and it's enormously frustrating to those of us who keep hearing the pleas from people who are over there with their boots on the ground saying you've got to get the word out.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Of course one of the things that's happening is these wonderful young men and women who serve over there for our country and are defending freedom and fighting terrorists over there so that we don't have to fight them here in the United States, those folks all e-mail back to their families and relatives in the United States and tell them the truth about what's taking place and that's encouraging. I suppose that's one of the reasons the media ranks down near the bottom in terms of public approval.
GALLAGHER: Mr. Secretary, much has been made about the U.S. troop drawdown, politicians calling for a timetable. Talk to us a little bit about how you see the war in Iraq playing out over the next few years or beyond. President Bush has been very adamant, we cannot stamp a timetable on this because that signals a message to the terrorists - to the bad guys - it just gives them a road map about when they can do what they want to do as it is.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: That's exactly right. The success we're having in training and equipping the Iraqi security forces is notable. There are now over 250,000 Iraqi security forces. They're headed up towards something like 325,000 later this year. And those folks are out there doing the job. They're assuming more and more responsibility across the country for the security of the Iraqi people - as they should. And, as they take over responsibility, obviously the need for U.S. forces will decline and we ought to be able to make some reductions in our force levels as we have been doing. We hit a high, I think, of 160,000. We're now down to 132,000 and I have every confidence that the Iraqi government and the Iraqi security forces will be able to assume additional responsibility this year and next, and that we'll be able to continue that process of reducing our force levels.
GALLAGHER: Our guest is Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld here on the Mike Gallagher Show.
Mr. Secretary, I have been pained. It has been painful on a very personal and professional level to see some of these retired generals criticize you and your efforts. What is your response to some of the things that have been said about you? And of course the mainstream media has taken it and run with it.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: [Laughter].
GALLAGHER: It has to be awfully difficult for you to hear some of those potshots that have been leveled your way by some of these retired generals.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, you know there have always been criticisms made in every war. Anyone who reads history understands that, that there are people who sit on the side and make observations and that's a free country so they're free to do that.
We've got something like 7,500 generals and admirals, - over 8,000 that are either on active duty or retired - and with that large number of people there are going to be some people who have different views, who are writing books and peddling their books or running for office, and that's the way it works. I suppose if you're in these jobs you have to expect that.
GALLAGHER: I appreciate you putting it in perspective. When you think of the thousands of either active or retired generals and admirals and commanders and they have managed to find I think four or five who seem not to think that you've done a very good job or a very effective job. That does give us pause for realizing a little perspective here about it. Because we've also heard, although the media doesn't like to talk about these guys too much, all the generals and the active military commanders who think we've certainly made some mistakes but overall this has been a noble and a very competent effort.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Indeed, the leadership we've got out there in General Abizaid and General Casey and General Dempsey - who is in charge of training and equipping the Iraqi security forces - and General Chiarelli. These folks are doing a superb job for our country and providing the leadership that the terrific and professional young men and women in uniform deserve. We're fortunate to have so many people who raised their hands and volunteered to serve our country and defend freedom.
This is a serious, vicious enemy that we're up against. Those people suggesting that we should toss in the towel and pull out of Iraq and set a timetable and tell the terrorists just to wait us out are wrong. They're making a mistake and the consequences for our country and the encouragement for the Zarqawis and the people who cut off people's heads would be dire. And fortunately we have a President and a leadership team out in Iraq in Ambassador Zal Khalilzad and General Casey that are doing a job that is just terrific
GALLAGHER: It must be incredibly inspirational to have that opportunity as you did this week to sort of pay that kind of a surprise visit to Iraq. It must be an amazing experience to shake the hands of those men and women who are over there defending our freedoms.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Indeed, it's always inspirational. You come back so proud of our country and what they're doing and the sacrifice they're making and the professionalism they're bringing to what they're doing. You can't help but be inspired by it.
GALLAGHER: No question, it's contagious.
I know you've got to run. I wanted to ask you, I just got a note about an amazing site that over a million and a half people have visited since it was launched, AmericaSupportsYou.mil. It's a web site. Tell us a little bit about this worldwide outreach program, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: What happened was we kept hearing about wonderful things that schools and corporations and clubs and cities and non-governmental organizations were doing for our troops and their families so we put together a web site, AmericaSupportsYou.mil where we've listed all of these things that people are currently doing to offer ideas for other people so that they might want to help the troops and support their families in the important work they're doing, indeed the noble work they're doing, the historic work they're doing.
GALLAGHER: Absolutely. AmericaSupportsYou.mil. With your permission, and I don't know if I've ever gotten permission from the top like this, but I'd like to put that link on our website, MikeOnLine.com so we can get as many people to go there as we can. Is that okay with you?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: That's terrific. We really appreciate it. I thank you so much.
GALLAGHER: We thank you, sir. And I hope you know that through all the tough times there are millions and millions of Americans like me who are supporting you, Mr. Secretary. Keep up the great work.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you so much, I appreciate that.
GALLAGHER: We appreciate you, sir. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.